In the Blood Characters
The main characters in In the Blood are Hester, Chilli, Reverend D., the Welfare Lady, the Doctor, Amiga Gringa, and Jabber.
- Hester, the protagonist of the play, is a single mother of five who lives under a bridge and who struggles to care for her family.
- Chilli is the father of Hester's oldest child, Jabber.
- Reverend D. is the negligent father of Hester's youngest child, Baby.
- The Welfare Lady is a social worker who helps but also exploits Hester.
- The Doctor convinces Hester to agree to a hysterectomy.
- Amiga Gringa is Hester's friend but often manipulates her.
- Jabber is Hester's oldest child, who tries to help Hester learn to read and write.
Hester, La Negrita
Hester, La Negrita is a young Black homeless woman who has five children by five different fathers. She cannot read nor write, but she can draw the letter “A” in the dirt and on the walls underneath the bridge where she lives with her children. She loves her children, referring to them often as her treasures, and she often goes without food in order to ensure that they can eat. Yet despite this seeming compassion, Hester is often harsh with her children, especially her eldest son, Jabber. Hester is sexually appealing to the men and women in her life. Her vulnerability and passivity are often exploited in the sexual experiences she has, which often lead to more difficult situations for Hester. Hester’s only true act of agency takes place when she violently murders her eldest son, Jabber. Hester appears in a prison cell in the play’s final scene, her freedom and agency entirely gone.
Chilli is Hester’s first lover and the father of her eldest son, Jabber. Chilli and Hester knew each other when they were young, and their love affair at that time in their lives was genuine. Throughout their relationship, Chilli was taking drugs, and the audience can infer that he behaved badly towards Hester. He returns to Hester thirteen years after the end of their relationship, having changed his name to avoid being found by social services. Though Chilli appears to have feelings for Hester, as evidenced by his suggestion that they marry, his love for her is selfishly motivated. He desires a wife, but he also desires the freedom to do whatever he likes and the ability to dominate Hester within the context of their marriage. Chilli avoids any discussion of their son, and once Chilli realizes that Hester has had four other children by four other men, Chilli abandons Hester, and their marriage plan evaporates.
Reverend D. is a local street preacher who was once homeless himself. He now has a church of his own, and his ability to put his life back on track leads him to assume that others who are homeless must be able to do the same. After a brief sexual encounter with Hester, she fell pregnant with his child. But he now denies his financial responsibility to Hester, even after she brings him a photograph of his two-year-old child, Baby. Reverend D. admits that he hates Hester, but he is also sexually excited by her neediness and her suffering.
The Welfare Lady
The Welfare Lady, who usually goes by “Welfare,” is a Black caseworker who meets with Hester to discuss her situation and to offer Hester advice about her circumstances. Though Welfare’s role is ostensibly one of support, she confesses to having taken advantage of Hester: Welfare once invited Hester to her house, where she and her husband engaged in a sexual encounter with Hester. Though she no longer seeks sexual favors from Hester, she expects Hester to soothe her with massages when they meet under the bridge where Hester lives. Welfare also provides Hester with an underpaid job sewing a dress.
Though the Doctor is in a position to help Hester, his primary purpose in the narrative is to submit Hester to a hysterectomy. As the personification of society’s desire to dehumanize Hester by forcibly sterilizing her, the Doctor is, despite his ostensible title, a threatening figure rather than a helpful one. Like the other adult characters in the play, the Doctor has had a sexual encounter with Hester. The Doctor’s confession suggests that he may be the father of one...
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of Hester’s middle children.
Amiga Gringa is a white woman and a friend of Hester’s, and she tries to involve Hester in her money-making schemes. Hester gives Amiga Gringa found objects to sell on the street, but it is doubtful that Amiga Gringa gives Hester the full amount she makes from the sales. Amiga Gringa teases Hester and demonstrates feelings of sexual attraction to Hester. As Amiga Gringa confesses, she and Hester have performed sexual acts in front of male audiences for money, and their success gives Amiga Gringa the idea to make a pornographic film with Hester. Amiga Gringa’s focus on money is all-consuming. After she tells Hester she thinks that she might be pregnant, Amiga Gringa also suggests that she will sell her newborn baby for money.
Jabber, Hester’s eldest son, is thirteen years old. He is handsome but also unmindful and talkative, as his name suggests. He tries to teach his mother how to write, but she is able to grasp only the letter “A.” His lack of thoughtfulness is partially to blame for his death: though Hester warns Jabber repeatedly to stop talking, his inability to understand her and to follow her directions frustrates Hester to the point of rage. Consequently, Hester clubs Jabber over the head and beats him to death.
Baby is Hester’s youngest child. He is two years old, and at the beginning of the play, he can be seen smashing aluminum cans with enthusiasm. His father is Reverend D., but the reverend does not acknowledge his son as his own.
Bully is Hester’s older daughter. She is twelve years old, and she often argues with her younger brother Trouble. At the start of the play, Bully is introduced as an unhelpful tattletale: she tells Hester about Trouble’s run-in with a policeman, but she frustrates Hester by not giving her mother the full story. She sleeps with her hands balled into fists, as if she were ready for a fight even while resting.
Trouble is Hester’s middle son, and he is ten years old. As his name implies, he is a troublemaker, having stolen a policeman’s club. Later in the play, he states that he intends to have sexual intercourse often when he is old enough. Trouble and his sister Bully often argue, and their conflicts cause Hester stress.
Beauty is Hester’s youngest daughter, and she is seven years old. She appears to be primarily concerned with her appearance and with decorative objects like hair ribbons and diamonds. Beauty plays with her siblings, but she has few spoken lines, suggesting that her role, as her name suggests, is to represent an object of aesthetic consideration.